KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir danced, waved his walking stick and delivered a defiant speech on Thursday at his first rally since undergoing surgery in Saudi Arabia and withstanding what officials called an attempted coup.
Diplomats and Sudanese bloggers have speculated about the 68-year-old veteran leader’s health after he appeared less frequently in public in recent months.
He did not attend an economic conference in Khartoum on November 27, the kind of event he has used in the past to attack a U.S. trade embargo on the country.
On Thursday, Bashir opened a new oilfield in western Sudan which the government hopes will mitigate the loss of crucial oil reserves since South Sudan seceded last year.
“To the enemies of Sudan who said that Sudan would collapse after the loss of oil to the South, we say our livelihood does not come from America or Israel or Europe but from God,” he told thousands of cheering people gathered at the Hadida oilfield in the Darfur region.
Over his 23 years in power, Bashir has weathered armed rebellions, soaring inflation, years of U.S. trade sanctions, an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court and student protests as well as the secession of the south last year.
He has faced popular discontent over an economic crisis and divisions within his ruling circle. The government arrested former spy chief Salah Gosh and twelve others last month, accusing them of trying to stage a coup.
He had an operation on his vocal cords in Qatar in August and went to Saudi Arabia in November for what officials described as minor surgery.
The televised speech on Thursday lasted less than ten minutes, shorter than previous ones, but Bashir also performed his trademark celebratory dance for the first time in several months.
He did not refer directly to the alleged coup attempt.
“Let’s leave the conflicts and problems because conflicts only make our enemies stronger... Let’s sit down together and solve all problems,” said Bashir.
Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz and Ulf Laessing; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer